Girl with Pearl Meatballs (V)

Zhenzhu Wanzi. The name translates into pearl meatballs, as they resemble little pearls, when they are rolled in white sticky rice. I, however, ruined this by excitedly pouring in turmeric powder. Newly awake, I realized mid-pour that the rice wouldn’t be able to absorb a significant amount of color during a 30 minute soak in cold water… Ah well!

I made these years ago, when I was still a kid. I’d seen grown-ups and cooks “squeeze” out meatballs using their thumb and index finger, and I thought it looked like so much fun!

Fast-forward to a time when we have excellent meat substitutions, like vegan moldable mince. So I thought I’d give it a try to veganize zhenzhu wanzi!


Vegan pearl meatballs, with a vinegar soy dipping sauce. (Photo by: Umami nom)

Zhenzhu Wanzi/Pearl Meatballs (Vegan)

About 16 meatballs

  • 100 ml sticky rice
  • 200 g vegan mince
  • 1 dried shiitake mushroom
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced (1 tsp if you like garlic)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Maggi sauce or light soy sauce
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • 1 pinch of white pepper
  • 1 tbsp goji berries
Dipping sauce:
  • Chinkiang rice vinegar
  • Light soy sauce
  • Toasted sesame oil

1. Start by washing the rice in cold water, and set aside to soak.

2. Break the stem off the shiitake mushroom. Use cold water to wash off any dirt, and set aside to rehydrate in hot water. Allow for both bowls to soak for about 30 minutes.

3. Peel a small knob of ginger with a spoon or a kitchen knife, and chop into a fine mince. Peel a garlic clove, and use a garlic press, or chop finely. Adjust the amount of garlic depending on your personal preference!

4. When the shiitake is rehydrated; gently press out the liquid, and chop away! Drain the soaked sticky rice.

5. Mix everything together, except for the rice. Use a tablespoon, or squeeze out pieces with your thumb and index finger. Roll into balls, and roll in the rice. I roll them in the rice, and then additionally in my palms to get the rice to stick better. I remember the rice sticking to the meat a lot easier when I used real meat back in the days, and did not have to double-roll them.

6. Put the meatballs into a steaming basket, and decorate with goji berries. Steam for about 8-9 minutes. Mix Chinese rice vinegar, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil in a dipping bowl. Serve while hot!


Tip! I cut out a round sheet to steam the dumplings on, using regular parchment paper. Fold a square several times, until it resembles a flat cone, and cut out tiny holes along the edges (we used to make “snowflakes” like this in kindergarten).

Note: I used a pre-seasoned veggie mince, and find it doesn’t need any additional salt other than some soy sauce/Maggi sauce, but do feel free to add some salt if you use one with less sodium.


Vegan zhenzhu wanzi, or pearl meatballs. (Photo by: Umami nom)
Please let me know if you try this recipe! Tag me using #umaminom on Instagram, I would love to see it!


Eat well!



Umami nom


2 thoughts on “Girl with Pearl Meatballs (V)”

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